From the plane’s window, I watched the imposing clouds of New Providence island morph into carefree clouds that hovered above the unending Exuma cays. The sapphire blue ocean transformed into neon turquoise with patches of exposed bright white sand. The islands appeared flat and deserted. Each time we passed over an island, I assumed we were landing because there couldn’t possibly be so many islands so close to each other. Finally, we descended into Great Exuma. The airport was a yellow house, and I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to walk through it or around it. I followed the other passengers who walked around it to the only road.
There was one van for picking up tourists so I asked the driver if it was for the swimming pigs tour. He said, “Yes, you can call me Professor.” Again, it was hard not to recall James Bond movies. “Just Professor?” I asked as I hesitated to climb in. “That’s what everyone calls me, ask anyone here and they know me.” As if on cue, one of the commuters from the plane yelled “Hey, Professor!” I climbed into his van fully expecting to be transported to his secret villain lair; instead, he dropped me off at the Grand Isle Resort and Spa. When I questioned him where I should board the boat, he laughed, “Your tour doesn’t start until 1.” He got back into the van. “Wait, you’re leaving?” “I have to go back to the airport to pick up the other guests. Meet me back here in 3 hours.”
Marooned on Great Exuma, I hunted for breakfast. After I ate eggs Benedict at the hotel bar, I wandered past the pool to the edge, where I glanced down at one of the most beautiful beaches I had ever seen. “Excuse me,” I asked the man working at the towel stand. “What’s the name of that beach?” He smiled and handed me a towel “Emerald Bay, and the stairs are right there,” he pointed. I practically tripped down the stairs in my excitement. I walked along the empty beach and became hypnotized by the aqua-chalcedony waters of emerald bay. After plopping down on a lounge chair in the shade, I instantly relaxed. The only sound was the soft wind whispering to the sea. This was the Bahamas of my dreams.
When the Professor returned, I didn’t want to leave. I reluctantly climbed back into the van with the the other tourists. He dropped us off at a dock where we boarded a speed boat. The captain jetted between so many tiny deserted islands that I wasn’t sure how he knew where he was going. There also wasn’t just one Pig Beach because we passed by several pig-inhabited beaches.
We finally slowed to one particular pig beach where the pigs had already began swimming towards the boat. When the crew offered us carrots and told us to jump in, I hesitated. The pigs were enormous (much larger than how they are portrayed in photos and TV shows). They looked like they weighed a thousand pounds each, and their large tusks were intimidating. One pig managed to reach the back of the boat, latch on to the ladder with his front legs, and scream at us. The crew splashed water on the pigs to keep them back as we entered the water. I immediately felt the slippery wings of a stingray slide along the back of my legs. I looked down and there were several more stingrays.
The pigs clearly disliked the salty sea since they shook their heads every few seconds to dispel the water from their ears. As I was distracted by the stingrays gliding all over me, Pickles the pig rushed at me head on. He opened his mouth wide to reveal his tusks, and I tossed a carrot in. Pickles practically swallowed it whole and continued pursuing me. Swatting away the stingrays, I heaved through the water between the other tourists in my attempt to lose Pickles. But, Pickles was not so easily fooled. “Hey! I need another carrot over here!” I yelled to the crew. I caught the flying carrot before Pickles trampled me, and I tossed it in his chomping jaws.
A pig named Panda pursued me once Pickles moved on to another tourist. I begged for more carrots and tossed them to Panda, who screamed if I missed his mouth. I kept trying to pass off the pigs to other tourists by swimming closely to them and then diving underwater, which worked half of the time. Not even the sharks of Nassau were this aggressive during their feeding frenzy.
The pigs were surprisingly fast swimmers, and they screamed in fear every time a stingray approached them. As the pigs hunted for floating carrots, I managed to escape to the island. The crew said that their company was solely in charge of the welfare of these pigs. They carried buckets of fresh water and pig feed to a little stable on the beach. The pigs rushed out of the water and gathered around the stable. Piglets emerged from the bushes to join their parents. The pigs and piglets screamed and squealed with anticipation for the main dish. I realized carrots were only appetizers. The crew ripped open the bags, and the feed cascaded down to the troughs. There were no more screams after that, only grunting and flapping of ears.
“May I ask why you don’t feed them first before we get into the water?” The crew said, “They only swim when they’re hungry.” I assumed from magazines and TV shows that the infamous Exuma pigs actually enjoyed swimming, and that they were some unusual breed of pig that adapted to Bahamian life. As I stared at the severely sunburned bodies of the pigs in front of me, I felt bad for them. The only unusual breed of pig was the red ones, red because their normally white skin was completely fried (which, oddly enough, made me hungry for bacon). As our boat backed away, the pigs huddled together on the sand, maybe as an attempt to shield each other from the brutal sun on an island without shade.
We stopped at a few pigless islands, and I floated in the glassy pool-like waters.
We then arrived at an island scattered with iguanas. The crew passed out bags of red grapes, and we climbed onto shore. I collapsed next to a pile of iguanas, and I was surprised that they continued their gargoyle appearance. I then opened my bag, and the iguanas slowly rotated their heads towards me. I tossed a grape to the closest iguana, and he caught it in his mouth. The other iguanas stared at me, so I pulled out a handful of grapes and tossed them up in the air at the same time. What proceeded after that can only be described as iguana fireworks. The iguanas had ample bad-ass attitude, and I enjoyed lounging with them. They reminded me of the marine iguanas that I swam with in the Galapagos.
On the boat ride back to the dock, I was already pig-crisp burnt. The Professor drove me back to the airport, I hopped on the commuter plane, and flew to the island of Bimini.